“Jane is spending the night,” I announced to my kids yesterday. From the wild whoops of joy that followed and the “happy dance” of my five year old, no one would guess that Jane was not a favorite classmate, but an octogenarian.
Part I of the story of Jane is here, and now I’ll give you a bit of Part II.
This lovely sun-drenched November morning found Jane and Little L in their jammies at the breakfast table. “Gram- I mean, Jane,” began Little L, in the usual way of my children, who, as many young children, mistake any dear older person in their life for a grandparent, “do you want to play a game?”
It’s been over four years since we met Jane, and as I told you in Part I, she was the neighbor whom I sought out as a friend for my mom. It turns out that Jane is a friend to our whole family, and especially to me. I began writing Part I when Jane was beginning chemotherapy for her breast cancer. I had no sense of whether she’d make it or not, and wanted some kind of record of her place in our lives.
Over the course of the year of her cancer, I drove Jane to countless doctor visits and treatment sessions. Thankfully, she had a cheerful-spirited oncologist who didn’t mind my four young children in tow, and a time or two he even proudly held my baby (Little L). It was a year of vacuuming her floor, bringing her groceries, and hopefully modeling for my children how (and why) to care for our elders.
At many points, I was sure Jane would die, and dreaded having to call her only son in Canada. What would I say to him? The chemotherapy made her so sick she was unable to even walk. Jane is a feisty old lady, however, and quit her chemotherapy treatments halfway through, refused radiation, and took her chances. Her doctor was baffled and a bit angry with her – someone with cancer in her lymph nodes shouldn’t take chances.
By the grace of the Almighty God, Jane survived, and as we enjoyed our coffee this morning, I pondered how she has developed a relationship with all the generations in my household – from my children, to my husband and me, to my mother. We moved to the country and don’t get to see her as much as we did when she was a few houses away, but I believe we’ve managed to cement a lifelong connection.
Jane will be 84 in a few weeks, and we were having an early celebration. What an amazing, divine appointment for us to have met, to help her on this journey. And the blessing on my children I consider to be immense. How many four, five, or nine year-olds cherish an “old lady” the way they do? I know I didn’t when I was young. The kids suckered Jane into games of Sorry, Hi-Ho Cheerio, and Monopoly by the time she left.
And Jane is still my mom’s only friend here. I tenderly watched them chatting on the couch last night. “When I was in Niagara Falls,” Jane began, relating a story from her childhood. “My dad was from Buffalo,” my mom interjected, “I don’t think that’s too far from there.” “Thirty-five miles,” Jane replied.
It was a slumber party that didn’t include staying up late or pillow fights. Our twice-widowed guest needed help walking up the stairs and a gentle reminder of where the bathroom was. But I will tell you that a sleep-over with an 84 year old is a marvelous thing, a mix of fading memory and wisdom woven into meaningless details.